By Michael P Garrett
For most college students, getting out of bed before noon on the weekend is an absurd thought. After a long week of classes, most want to go out for a fun Friday night and sleep in as late as possible on Saturday.
However, this past Saturday for 55 men and five women sleeping in would not be an option. Students, faculty and staff gathered in the Sabatini Multicultural Resource Center to discuss what healthy masculinity looks like on a college campus at the second ever Man to Man: Men and Masculinities Symposium.
Starting at 9 a.m., the one-day conference featured several speakers and breakout sessions where men and women could come together to talk about the importance of a man’s identity and how to express that in a healthy manner.
Dr. Tracy Davis, the keynote speaker for the seminar, has spoken at about 20 universities about masculinity and identity over the past several years. Davis wanted students to openly challenge negative male stereotypes.
“The biggest message I wanted to send is that there are a lot of external definitions of who we (men) should be,” Davis said. “For us to understand who we really are we have to critically interrogate those definitions.”
Davis is a professor at Western Illinois University where he teaches and conducts research on identity development, gender and social justice. His latest book, Masculinities in Higher Education, highlights a lot of what he presented in his speech.
The inspiration for the symposium came last year when a group of male students became frustrated by the way men have been stereotyped and the social pressures young men are faced. Last year, they came together to lead a student-run symposium to talk about what it means to be a man and how to promote healthy masculinity on a college campus.
This year a committee of staff and students came together to beef up the programming. Dustin Struble, the associate director of the student involvement leadership center (SILC), was one of the staff members who took charge in organizing the event.
Struble said this symposium aimed to show men that being a role model around campus doesn’t make you a wimp; rather it will promote an all around better university.
“Our hope is that we can start to address this (problems in masculinity) in terms of the behaviors and the pressures that are put on men,” Struble said. “We can start to correct this and get to a place where men are really coming to the table and are becoming campus leaders and men are being leaders in the classroom as well.”
Eric Hurtt, a senior from Kansas City, Mo., didn’t mind spending a Saturday learning about masculinity and challenging negative stereotypes. He said during college it’s important to reflect on your identity, especially if you’re a man.
“We do a lot of stuff based off what everyone else is doing,” Hurtt said. “Following everyone wont get you anywhere, you have to figure out your identity as a man on your own.”
Hurtt was also one of the students who helped plan the event. Most of his duties included spreading the word about the symposium and encouraging men and women alike to attend.
Even though Hurtt helped plan the event, he said he was still excited to attend the symposium and learn what healthy masculinity looked like.
“If you would ask me, what does it mean to be a man? I feel like I could tell you, but I wouldn’t be able to give you specifics, Hurtt said. “ I learned that it is harder to define masculinity than you thought.”
Dr. Tracy Davis would agree with Hurtt. He said that defining masculinity and going against the status quo is something that has to be done on an individual level.
“If there is one thing I wanted KU students to think about it would be that in order to become better self authored and understand their own voice, they need to consider what social messages they have been sent their whole lives,” Davis said. “Not necessarily to change them but to develop your own voice by looking at what you’ve been sold.”
More than anything the coordinators of the symposium want the conference to spur conversation across campus. They hope to host the conference again next year.
Dr. Tracy Davis addresses the attendants during his keynote speech.
Attendants listen to speaker Mauricio Gómez Montoya present during one of three breakout sessions.
Senior Bryne Gonzales from Topeka listens to Gómez Montoya’s speech. Gonzales was also a part of the student committee that organized the event.